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Dying to Live: Near-Death Experiences by…

Dying to Live: Near-Death Experiences (1993)

by Susan Blackmore

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The author takes on the task of evaluating near death experiences, and does a good job of sorting through the literature. She dissects the credulous arguments for afterlife, and offers her own alternatives. For the most part, the book is well written and solidly researched, but the author does go quite a bit beyond the data, offering up the idea that because our sense of self is a mental construct (a point I have little problem agreeing with) and that the world is interpreted through our brain, that there is in fact no actual reality. In the end, she drifts into typical philosophical double-speak, and finally breaks through with a plea to embrace Buddhism. Overall, the book would have been excellent if the author had remained within the realm of the scientific model she was presenting, rather than trying to force it into a preferred metaphysical model in opposition to the metaphysical model she was denying. Good reading for anyone who is well enough versed in critical thinking to notice the bait-and-switch and approach her conclusions with the same skepticism that she has so admirably applied to the other, more Western metaphysical authors. ( )
  Devil_llama | Jul 31, 2011 |
Having had a near death experience herself, Susan Blackmore first investigated the paranormal side of the issue. In that period she wrote [Beyond the Body], in which she collects many anecdotes. She has not developed a very critical stance yet and concludes that there certainly is reason to investigate this further.

When she wrote Dying to Live she had reached another viewpoint. Most anecdotes could also be explained by a, if you will, materialistic explanation, and she offers physiological explanations for most of the anecdotes she heard. She puts great emphasis on the fact that, as the anecdote cannot be investigated physiologically, her explanation is only an option and not evidence that this is what happened. I've seen more than one critic of this book who failed to observe all these notices.
What struck me most is that she describes how people of whom anecdotes are going around were tracked down for further questions. She manages to show quite well that the physiological explanation is never excluded by the miraculous observations that anecdotes often contain. It turns out that when actually checking on the location that there was never made a final proof that a near dead person made observations that could only have been made out of the body. For example someone seeing shoes on the roof of a hospital could have seen them from a window.

For me this book is the clearest of the three books I read of her. After this I read 'Consciousness, a short introduction'. In this book she starts of clearly by showing how we should approach consciousness, and that we assume things like the Cartesian theatre which turn out to be illusions, But she ends up taking a rather firm stancepoint about consciousness, coming to rather strong conclusions from what i see as merely possible interpretations of experimental data. ( )
  SkepChris | Mar 19, 2010 |
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To my children, Emily and Jolyon, who are both in this book.
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What is it going to be like when I die?
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Originally published 1993 by Grafton, An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, London.  T.p. verso
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Opinion has long been divided over Near-Death Experience, or NDEs, some presenting them as evidence for the existence of the soul and life after death, others arguing that they are merely the chemical and physiological products of a dying brain.

Susan Blackmore has interviewed many people who claim to have had NDEs, and after researching hundreds of case histories she offers an absorbing and detailed review of this fascinating and controversial phenomenon.  While presenting clear physical explanations for the changes that take place within the brain, Blackmore argues that true spiritual transformation comes not from searching after a spirit or soul, but from reinterpreting the concept of "self" itself.

Dying to Live succeeds in bridging the gap between the scientific and the spiritual points of view and shows how an understanding of NDEs can help us live out lives in the face of death and lead the way to self-knowledge.  [from the jacket]
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